The United Methodist Reporter is offering the latest headlines in the RSS format.
COMMENTARY: Receiving God’s grace Bishop Robert Schnase, Feb 7, 2011
Bishop Robert Schnase
By Bishop Robert Schnase Special Contributor
Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Bishop Schnase’s new Lenten devotional book, 'Forty Days of Fruitful Living' (Abingdon).
“We love because he first loved us.” —1 John 4:19
“Accept that you are accepted.” When I read this as a college student, those words by Paul Tillich jolted me into a new understanding of God’s unconditional love.
The pivotal first element in our walk of faith—the practice of Radical Hospitality—involves our saying Yes to God’s love for us, a willingness to open our lives to God and invite God into our hearts. It involves our capacity to receive grace, accept Christ’s love and make room for God in our lives.
“Do we know what it means to be struck by grace?” Tillich asks. This was a provocative notion to me, an odd metaphor, to describe God’s grace as something that strikes, that jars us into a new way of thinking, that collides with our old way of being. He continues, “We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace.” The first movement toward the transformed life and becoming the person God wants us to be begins when we face the startling reality of God’s unconditional love for us. Receiving the love and forgiveness of God and opening ourselves to the new life it brings can be as abrupt as lightning striking across the black night sky. It means we’ve been struck by grace.
The personal practice of Radical Hospitality begins with a receiving, perceiving, listening, opening, accepting attitude—a readiness to accept and welcome God’s initiative toward us. It is sustained with active behaviors that place us in the most advantageous posture to continue to receive God, welcome Christ and make room for grace. And so it involves interior decision and soul work, a listening and receptivity to God, as well as habits that transform us as we regularly, frequently and intentionally make room in our lives for God.
Grace strikes at unexpected times, Tillich suggests: when we are in pain, feeling restless, empty, alone. When the ordinariness of life grinds us down, or the vacuity of the world’s promises leaves us empty, when we finally realize our churning and churning is taking us nowhere fast, in such moments, grace comes to us like a wave of light in the darkness, and we perceive a voice saying, “You are accepted.”
We don’t have to give anything; only to receive what is given. Our only and singular task is to accept that we are accepted. You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.
Can you accept that?
God’s love for us is not something we have to strive for, earn, work on or fear. It is freely given. That is key: that we are loved, first, finally and forever by God, a love so deep and profound and significant that God offers his Son to signify and solidify this love forever so that we get it. When we finally do get it, and open our hearts to the truth of God’s love for us, we begin to receive glimpses of a peace that the world cannot give or take away, an inner assurance about our ultimate worth in God’s eyes that surpasses understanding.
The journey to becoming what God would have us to be begins with opening ourselves to this love and giving it a place in our hearts. The welcoming requires of us an extraordinary hospitality, a radical receptivity, a willingness to allow God to come in and dwell within our hearts.
Accept that you are accepted. In the moment that grace strikes, grace conquers sin. Grace helps us face the truth about ourselves, to embrace it rather than run from it; and by embracing this truth and offering it to God, we discover that God knows the truth about us and still loves us, and that God will shape us from this day forward anew.
God’s been waiting for us, desiring us to let him in. Accept that you are accepted. Open the doors of your heart.